Monday, July 19, 2004

Mail Bag IV: France and Germany

Why do you think French and German were such backstabbers?

I'll let Bill Clinton answer that one for me: He said recently, in Europe while promoting his autobiography, "But at the time nearly everybody thought there was probably a stock of chemical and biological weapons there [Iraq] and it was vulnerable to falling into the wrong hands, either by design or by corruption within Saddam’s regime. And essentially the French and the Germans said, 'we still don’t care.' "

In case you have forgotten it, I haven't: In March 2003, as the showdown with Saddam loomed and the U.S. and Britain were trying to convince the U.N. to back up its own threats, it was the French, with help from the Germans and Russians, who turned the entire event on its head and made the U.N. an organization devoted to stopping the demon that is America. They used their political position on the world stage to become human shields for one of the worst dictators ever to curse a nation.

After Saddam flouted 16 U.N. resolutions, Bush said, "The conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the United Nations, and a threat to peace. Iraq has answered a decade of U.N. demands with a decade of defiance. All the world now faces a test and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?"

The Security Council subsequently passed a 17th resolution -- unanimously -- which supported military action if it was not complied with. Iraq flouted this one, too. Yet still, with the whole world watching, France and Germany flatly refused to ever back an attack on that regime.

Security Council members France (permanent) and Germany (temporarily) undermined the U.S. by jointly announcing their intent to block U.N. authorization of an invasion against Iraq, even before U.N. weapons inspectors had submitted their final report to the council. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Paris wouldn't accept the "logic of ultimatums." France vowed to use its veto power on the council to kill any resolution that could be seen as authorizing war. The French rejected a British compromise proposal to the council even before Iraq did.

And the sad part is, I believe Chirac and Schröder did this, in large part, to help themselves and their parties in the short-term goal of winning national elections. Schröder especially ran on a platform almost entirely pitched to Germans' anti-Americanism, to balance out voters' anger over the sagging German economy. When his coalition won a narrow victory, Reuters reported that the campaign was "dominated by Schroeder's blunt opposition to a U.S.-led attack on Iraq."

While Bush, Blair, Aznar and others risked their political lives to do what they thought was right. If the U.N. is more irrelevant today than it was in April 2003, the blame does not lie in Washington, D.C.